Honors celebrates 50 Years with Golden Gala
On Feb. 4, the J. N. Andrews Honors Program commemorated its 50th year of academic excellence, spiritual discernment and social engagement with a Golden Gala at The Heritage Museum and Cultural Center in St. Joseph, Mich. The splendid Saturday evening brought together approximately 130 Honors scholars, faculty and friends for food and company. Among the gala’s distinguished guests were Andrews University President Andrea Luxton and Dr. Merlene Ogden, who founded the J. N. Andrews Honors Program in 1966.
The Nova Quartet, a collection of Andrews University students, played background music as the evening began, and guests mingled while taking photos and eating agape feast appetizers.
Haley Butler (sophomore, biology, pre-medicine), an Academic Officer for the J. N. Andrews Honors Program, said, “The 50th Anniversary Honors Gala was truly a night of class. The decor was lovely, as was the food, making it a wonderful celebratory evening to honor the great accomplishments of the Program and fellowship with friends.”
President Luxton commenced dinner with prayer and thus the salad course was served. With dinner catered by Caitlin’s Café, the guests reveled in gourmet vegetarian food followed by an assortment of desserts and hot drinks. As conversation floated with string music the night stretched into the start of the program.
Michelle Marsollier (sophomore, biomedical science, pre-medicine), who attended the Golden Gala as a friend of the J. N. Andrews Honors Program, said, “As a guest not a part of the Honors program, it was enlightening to learn about the 50 years of Honors education Andrews University has offered. It was wonderful to to also see the legacy Honors last left and continues to make. Overall the company among the Honors family was what made the night most enjoyable.”
The Commemorative program was opened with a special music by sisters Irene Hwang (senior, biochemistry, pre-dentistry) and Isabelle Hwang (sophomore, biology, pre-medicine) and Jeremy Ahn (sophomore, mechanical engineering, music). Dr. L. Monique Pittman, Director of the J. N. Andrews Honors Program and Professor of English, then toasted the longevity of the J. N. Andrews Honors Program with a tribute to the Ogden.
Pittman said, “Dr. Ogden had a gift not only for the larger vision of what Honors education should achieve at an Adventist institution but also possessed the talent for identifying how to operationalize that vision. So much of what we enjoy today as the Honors Program—our interdisciplinary general education curriculum, our focus on research, our habits of social, spiritual and cultural activities—all began with Dr. Ogden.”
Ogden then took the podium to share her reflections on how far the J. N. Andrews Honors Program has come since its conception. According to Ogden, advocates for the program were met with resistance by those who feared it would create an elitist group of students on campus; Ogden said she believes these critics were wrong, as the program today has become a garden in which young minds can grow.
Randy Sanchez (senior, biology, pre-medicine), President of the J. N. Andrews Program, closed the evening with his presidential remarks, and by thanking Pittman for her guidance and leadership of the program.
Later, Sanchez said, “Seeing how the Gala played out throughout the entire evening was a humbling experience as I knew just how much work went into making this night as wonderful as possible. I could not have asked for a better closure to my time as an Honors student at Andrews University.”
Pittman said, “It was an absolute joy to gather with so many Honors Scholars and their friends, Honors Faculty and Council Members, and Honors staff colleagues! I don’t have adequate words for my gratitude! I thank God every day for my students and colleagues in the program and last night was a crystallization of all that I cherish about my working life. It was a night to be remembered.”